Monday, November 19, 2018

The Avengers #10 (#700)

   This is actually issue #700 of The Avengers, so congrats to the team on hitting that milestone.

   The series has been in a steady state of flux in recent years, and the lineup seems to change from issue-to-issue - and this issue promises more of that.

   My problem with this issue - and the ongoing story - is that it sets up a problem that's impossible to solve. It centers around Namor the Sub-Mariner, who has yet again declared war on the surface world, and has assembled an army of super-powered undersea agents to help him destroy any incursion into the oceans.

   So how is this resolved? Will Namor call off his war? (No.) Can the Avengers stop his attacks? (Not likely.) Can Namor actually destroy every incursion by the surface world? (Apparently.) What about ships crossing the oceans? (We need to read the fine print.) Why is Namor angry? (Same old stuff, I guess.)

   So the anniversary issue turns into a big knock-down, drag-out fight between three super-teams, all filled with angry, vicious characters. 

   It's fun and feisty, but it would be nice to have a little less punching and a few more character and story moments.

   (And the Thor acting like a teen asking a girl out on a first date bit is just silly.)

   I was hoping for more from a team that's hit such a major mark.

Grade: B-


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Mister Miracle #12 (of 12)

   I suppose it would be wrong to file a review that just said, "What the hell?"

   So I'll resist the urge. 

   This Mister Miracle limited series has been strange mix of nightmare scenarios, real-world struggles, throwback bluster and superheroics. 

   All have been presented without a clue as to which is real and which is not. Is it all a nightmare inflicted on Scott Free and his wife Big Barda? Is it a plot by Darkseid? Or Metron? Is there another explanation? 

   If you're looking for pat answers, you won't find them in this series. Instead, it offers some tantalizing clues and leaves it to you, dear reader, to decide what to believe.

   It's been interesting and compelling throughout, and certainly walks a different path from most stories based in Jack Kirby's Fourth World.

   (I often smile when I think, "What would Kirby think of this series?" I suspect he'd be happy his characters continue to entertain, and he'd be happy for the royalty check - but he might scratch his head at the storyline.)

   If you're looking for a funny, challenging and unique story, this is your Huckleberry.

Grade: A


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fantastic Four #3

   This issue wraps up the opening storyline, bringing the Fantastic Four back into the mainstream Marvel Universe (for which we can all be grateful). 

   I wish the comic featured a better story, but to complain about it seems ungrateful - and it's not a bad story at all, it's just lacks the grandeur we'd expect from Marvel's landmark title, finally back in business after too many years.

   The story tries to be big. It has a vast number of guest stars, including everyone who has been a member of the team (however brief or tenuous), all gathered to fight an unbeatable opponent.

   But it spends so much time on side bits of business, getting the core four back together again, that the whole thing feels almost laconic, when it should have a sense of urgency.

   Next issue promises a fun event, as a long-awaited wedding finally takes place - and we should get some touching family moments.

   Again, I'm thrilled to have the series back - but it still hasn't reached its old heights yet. This is the World's Greatest Comics Magazine - fans deserve nothing less.

Grade: B


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

New Comics Day

   Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today: 

- NEIL GAIMAN AMERICAN GODS MY AINSEL #8 - Shadow's past returns to haunt him.

- AVENGERS #10 - Earth's most hated heroes!

- DAREDEVIL #611 - Can Daredevil survive his final battle with the Kingpin?

- FANTASTIC FOUR #3 - Free-for-all!

- HAWKMAN #6 - Teaming up with the Atom!

- MAGE HERO DENIED #13 (OF 15) - Can Kevin rescue his family?

- MISTER MIRACLE #12 (OF 12) - The mind-bending conclusion!

- SUPERMAN #5 -Teaming up with Zod!

- THOR #7 - A tale of young Thor!

- UNCANNY X-MEN #1 - The return of the children of the atom!

   And I received these copies for review:

- ARTIFACT ONE #2 - A relic hunter makes a startling discovery!

- BLOODSHOT RISING SPIRIT #1 - A new series begins!

- BROTHER NASH TP - A trucker facing monsters.

- DELLEC VOL. 2 #3 - The Earth hangs in the balance!

- LIFE IS STRANGE #1 - An unexpected sequel!

- MILLENNIUM TRILOGY BOX SET - Collecting the Millennium Saga!

- MINIONS VIVA LE BOSS #1 - The mascots get their own comic!

- NINJA-K #13 - Who betrayed who?

- PRISONER TP VOL. 1 UNCERTAINTY MACHINE - Collecting the recent mini-series!

- ROBOTECH #14 - What's the truth behind SDF-1's exile?

- ROBOTECH ARCHIVES MACROSS SAGA TP VOL. 3 (OF 3) - Collecting the classic stories.

- SHADES OF MAGIC #2 (OF 4) STEEL PRINCE - The prequel continues!

   And that's it!

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Titan Passes! Farewell to Stan Lee

   It's heartbreaking to note the passing today of Stan Lee, 95, one of the most important figures in the history of comic books.

   He started in the business when he was a teenager, working as a gopher for his uncle, publisher Martin Goodman, at Timely Comics.

   Through the years his career survived the near destruction of the comics industry and by the late 1950s he was the editor and main writer for the company then known as Atlas Comics.

   He wasn't very proud of his work, as evidenced by his use of a pen name instead of his real name, Stanley Leiber. But with a new, creative approach to comics, he was about the rejuvenate the industry.

   Teaming up with legendary artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, they created dynamic new heroes for the company now known as Marvel Comics - the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Dr. Strange, the X-Men - and by combining action, humor and soap opera elements, they brought new life and new interest in the comics industry.

   Stan gets a lot of praise for his work as a writer and scripter, but he doesn't alway get enough credit for his work as an editor - he was able to urge the best work of their careers from everyone in the Bullpen, including Kirby, Ditko, John Buscema, Don Heck, George Tuska, Gene Colan, John Romita, Jim Steranko and Gil Kane (and many others) - and hired terrific writers to add to the mythos, including Roy Thomas. 

   But his most important work was as a promoter for comics. He created the attitude at Marvel that we were all part of the club. Stan was the funny, lovable leader of the gang, and we were all welcome. He became the face of the industry, and without his tireless promotion, pushing that product, I suspect comic books might long ago have gone the way of radio dramas.

   It occurs to me that he's probably the only comic book creator that almost anyone on the street could name. 

   At his advanced age and (apparently) failing health, his passing is probably a blessing - but it's a tough loss to bear. Stan was a true inspiration. For me, there are few writers who had as much influence or whose work affected me more. He crafted mythologies and stories that still resonate, and told stories I can almost repeat word-for-word. 

   He was a titan of entertainment, with characters and stories continuing long after he last provided their dialogue. It seems a fitting memorial that he leaves behind a billion dollar industry that produces several movies every year (in addition to TV shows, video games, books and, yes, comic books) based on characters that sprang from his work with talented artists over 50 years ago.

   I was lucky enough to meet him for a short interview in the late '80s and he was exactly what you'd expect: funny, quick, lovable, kind and brimming with energy. That's the Stan I'll remember and cherish. 

   At the end of the interview, I asked the usual question: "Is there anything you'd like to add?" He paused for a moment, leaned forward, smiled, and said, "Excelsior!"

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Infinity Wars #5 (of 6)

   Here's what's wrong with Marvel's comics: the writing has taken a back seat to the art.

   It's a common mistake - plenty of other companies have made it, and Marvel has made it before.

   To clarify, some editors apparently think the only important thing about a comic book is the artwork.

   Take the new Infinity Wars series, for example. The art is amazing. You get the sense that Mike Deodato, Jr., realizes that the story makes no sense, so he's trying to make up for it by pulling out all the stops with amazing, over-the-top imagery.

   But as they say in the theatre, "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

   You can't expect a comic series or event to succeed if the story makes no sense. So this series has Gamora seizing the Infinity Stones, supposedly to free a fragment of her soul from the Soul Gem - but instead, she's embarked on an exploration of... well, some kind of barrier between realities. And she sent a number of heroes into the Soul Gem, where they find duplicate Infinity Stones. And she "folded" the universe, merging heroes together into new Amalgams (heh). 

   Why are these things happening? No idea. And that's just part of the crazy goings on here.

   Look, I've been reading comics forever, and I can't make hide nor hair of it - and this is not uncommon in Marvel's comics these days.

   Until they put the focus on hiring the best comic book writers available (as they did during the Marvel Knights line that hit 20 years ago), they're going to continue to drive readers away. We're here to be entertained, not insulted.

Grade: C



Saturday, November 10, 2018

Green Lantern #1

   I had high hopes for the new creative team on Green Lantern - but my feelings are a bit mixed.

   I think they're taking the right approach - taking the comic "back to the basics" is almost always a good idea - but things are still a bit muddled.

   The story starts on an alien world, where a truly strange member of the Green Lantern Corps is dealing with some deadly criminals.

   Eventually we shift to Earth, where Hal Jordan comes across a crashed alien spaceship (in a nice throwback to his origin) and goes in search of those same criminals - though I'm not sure how they ended up crashing on Earth. Seems like a mighty big coincidence.

   I like that writer Grant Morrison seems to be stripping this down to its essence - it's almost a police procedural. And hey, there's actual science on display here - that always makes me happy.

   I like Liam Sharp's art a lot, although he seems much more at home with alien landscapes (and grisly moments) than with the usual superheroics.

   There was a lot to squeeze into this issue, so hopefully there will be room in upcoming stories to make Hal more likable. He's very good at his job (Space Policeman), and he's cool and sharp (as we'd expect from a Test Pilot), but we need a reason to be in his corner. 

   So far, he's kind of a jerk. Here's hoping that part doesn't last.

   And while I'm putting in requests, I'd like to see some Earthbound adventures - he shouldn't spend all his time on alien worlds.

Grade: A-


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

New Comic Day

     A light week! Here's what I picked up at the comics shop today:

- CHAMPIONS #26 - A world of magic and glory!

- DOCTOR STRANGE #7 - Back on Earth!

- DREAMING #3 - Enter Judge Gallows!

- GREEN LANTERN #1 - Grant Morrison takes over!

- INFINITY WARS #5 (OF 6) - It's Loki's Avengers!

     And I received these review copies:

- DOCTOR WHO 13TH #1 - A new Doctor in town.

- NO ANGEL TP - Is she the child of a god?

- RAID #4 (OF 4) - The brutal finale!

      And that's it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Faith: Dreamside #2

   The superhero known as Faith (does anyone call her Zephyr anymore?) tends to stick to standard hero fare - fighting her rogue's gallery, saving innocents in danger, that sort of thing.

   With this mini-series, she's moving into a different territory, facing a mystic danger - and being a smart hero (I do like the smart heroes), she goes in search of an expert on the supernatural.

   So we get a cool guest appearance by the sadly underused Dr. Mirage, as Faith's friend facing a danger that threatens her immortal soul!

   This issue provides the set-up for the major conflict to come, but it's a nice bit of character work on display.


Grade: B+


Saturday, November 3, 2018

The Classics - The Brave and the Bold #187

   I was surprised when I spotted this comic book recently in the back issues boxes at a local comics shop - because I had never seen the cover before.

   This issue of The Brave and the Bold is cover dated June 1982 - a time when I was mostly buying Marvel's comics, I must admit (hey, I was young and had limited funds).

   But if I had seen it, I would have snapped this issue up - because I was always a fan of the Metal Men, and I knew who the "What'sername" was.

   The thing that really stunned me about the cover was the idea that writer Bob Haney, who crafted B&B stories for many years, was actually clearing up a continuity thread.

   Haney was a terrific writer, turning out lots of great stories, especially when paired with legendary Batman artist Jim Aparo, but he was also well-known for not worrying much about continuity.

   (I believe he famously added Wonder Girl to the lineup of the original Teen Titans, not knowing that she was an imaginary character in Wonder Woman's comic.)

   But my surprise was wasted - Haney had ended his run on this series 30 issues before this. Charlie Boatner provides the answer to a long-running mystery around the Metal Men, and brings along some old foes for that team. 

   Batman doesn't get to do much here, and it's all resolved a bit too abruptly to be really effective, but it's a fun "done in one" issue, and worth it just for the nostalgic buzz.

Grade: B



Friday, November 2, 2018

West Coast Avengers #3

   I really want to like this series. I was a fan of the original incarnation, but they're not making it easy here.

   A lot of that is because the West Coast Avengers - so far - are not a great team.

   We have two Hawkeyes - both characters I like - but which one is the leader? It has America, a great character who provides much-needed muscle and a personality.

   Then there's Kid Omega (Quentin Quire), a telepath / mutant who's there to provide, I don't know, attitude?

   Gwenpool is the crazy kidder of the team (does it need more comic relief, given that it has the two Hawkeyes already?), and Fuse is, well, a bit of an enigma so far.

   It's a really odd mix, and it hasn't jelled at all - also not helped by the odd opponent they face (known as B.R.O.D.O.K., and no, I'm not kidding) who has unleashed destructive giants on Santa Monica.

   I liked the Hawkeye comic that this spins out of, but I'm hoping they can get this sorted out quickly - so far, it just isn't working for me.

Grade: B-



Thursday, November 1, 2018

Heroes in Crisis #2 (of 9)

   Writer Tom King seems to have a knack for getting my hackles up.

   He did it with the first issue of Mr. Miracle, and he's done it again with Heroes in Crisis.

   By the second issue of Mr. Miracle, my opinion started to turn around, and I now anxiously await the final issue of that series.

   So far, this series still has me in the "riled up" category.

   That's because it started off with my least-favorite technique for drumming up interest: with the death of key characters (including heroes and villains). 

   Then it adds an absurd premise: that a safe house exists where heroes and villains can go unburden themselves and discuss their darkest secrets. What hero would reveal his or her identity and discuss their darkest secrets in such a place?

   And then we have the mystery of who committed these murders - is it Harley Quinn (here back in her original costume) or Booster Gold (who's acting wildly out of character).

   So there's a lot to sort out, and confrontations to play out (also in very improbable fashion).

   I do like the art by Clay Mann and Travis Moore, but the story just feels like it's held together by scotch tape.

   There's still time for King to turn it around - but he's got a long way to go.

Grade: B-